Last week I made my first ever Poolside Tote.
The pattern is by Anna Graham of Noodlehead and you can find it on her website – here.
Although I’m not a super confident bag maker, I mostly managed to make the Poolside Tote pattern work for me. And now that I have made one, I would be really confident making another.
Poolside Tote Review
The pattern includes suggestions on interfacing choices depending on what sort of structure you are looking for in your Poolside Tote. I chose to use By Annie’s Soft and Stable to give my bag the ability to stand upright on its own. Nevertheless, having the instructions for the different options is great, and makes the pattern quite versatile. (I think a soft shell version you could throw in your suitcase would be great to take on vacation!)
Overall, the pattern is really well-written. That said, I did experience a couple of little hiccups along the way. But, I don’t think that is uncommon the first time you make something you’re unfamiliar with. Sometimes instructions become clearer once you have given them a test drive ;).
Making the Straps and Accent Pieces
Mostly the issues I had were surrounding the accent straps and handles. The straps are the pieces that appear to extend from the handles on the body of the bag. They are gently shaped to achieve the distinct look of the tote.
The construction method suggests basting the seam allowance along the long edges using a 1/2″ seam allowance, and then using these stitches as a guide to press the seams to the wrong side. In theory this is a reasonable suggestion, but in reality it is a little tricky to ensure you have exactly the right seam allowance pressed under.
Because I don’t have a 1/2″ seam allowance presser foot, I attempted to gauge the seam allowance using the markings on the plate of my sewing machine – and that was my big mistake!
While I thought I had done my best to make this step work I hadn’t been accurate enough and eventually this became obvious when the accent straps met up in the seam on the base of the bag. Luckily, it’s on the bottom so I will try to pretend it doesn’t bother me ;).
A possible solution could be preparing the pieces in a similar manner to applique shapes, using freezer paper. But if you don’t want to go that far – ultimately you want to be sure that the width on your strap and handle ends are all identical – that way you won’t encounter the problem you can see in the image above!
Handles to Hold
The second issue I had was trying to get the topstitching on the ‘rolled’ part of the handles to look right. After a few attempts (and quality time with the seam ripper) I decided not to bother with that detail. I don’t think I had the right combination of needle and thread to work with so many layers of fabric and existing stitching. Perhaps top stitching needles may have helped?! You definitely need the right equipment for this step – including a sewing machine that can handle some bulk ! So, if you don’t, leave this step out and move on.
Making the Pockets
The pattern has two pocket options – either a slip pocket or a zippered pocket.
Since there were no other secure pockets inside the Poolside Tote, I opted for the zippered pocket. However, if I was to make it again, I would put a slip pocket on the back as well as the zippered pocket on the front.
If you are new to inserting zippers in bags, there is no need to fear this particular step. The construction method is simple, and easy to accomplish.
Something else I wish I had considered when making the pocket, was using a contrast fabric for the exterior. It would have been a great opportunity to showcase an accent fabric on the front of the tote. (It does have a cute accent fabric for the lining – but of course, you rarely get to see it!)
The Lining and Accent Facing
One of the features of this bag is the accent facing that is used to encase the lining. Rather than the traditional method of leaving an opening in the bottom of the lining, and eventually turning the bag through the opening, this method has you insert the finished lining wrong sides together into the bag, and uses the facing to finish the edge in a similar manner to which you might bind a quilt.
It is definitely a challenge to create a flat and even facing around the entire perimeter of the bag, but with some patience it can be done.
The one thing I didn’t like about the pattern at this stage is the suggestion to machine edgestitch along the bottom edge of the facing. I originally gave it a go, but I really disliked the way the bobbin ‘topstitch’ ended up looking on the exterior of my bag. I especially disliked how the stitching appeared on the solid handles – there was absolutely no way of hiding imperfections and symmetry issues.
The simplest solution was to hand stitch the facing in place. And doing so gave me the opportunity to also include a magnetic clasp – perfect for when the bag is not overflowing with contents.
Poolside Tote, Random Final Thoughts
- The quilting was probably the most time consuming part of the whole process, but I love the way it makes this tote look. Next time, I will pay closer attention to cutting out my pattern pieces with the same quilting reference point to help give the quilting better symmetry on the front and back of the tote.
- The overall size of this bag was bigger than I was expecting, but it really is perfect for carrying whatever your heart desires to the pool or beach. There are no internal pockets which is a shame because a few slip pockets inside the tote would help separate some of the smaller contents you may wish to carry.
- I purchased a paper pattern because I didn’t want to have to tape together my pattern pieces, but now I wish I had purchased the PDF version which would have given me the ability to reduce the overall size of the pattern pieces and make a smaller version of the Poolside Tote, more suited to everyday use.
- If you are new to bag making then this pattern would be a great place to start. It’s not overly complicated but it is challenging enough to be interesting – and hopefully with some of my tips you can avoid the issues I had, and create your own perfect Poolside Tote ;).
I hope you enjoyed this Poolside Tote review! If you have made your own and you have a tip or two to share, please leave a comment 🙂
This is a helpful review, thanks! Your bag is really nice; I like the fabric. Good tips on the pockets, the idea of adding an open pocket on the back. I don’t have this pattern (yet) but I have another of hers that I haven’t made yet.
Thanks Wendy! I have to admit I have a few other Noodlehead patterns I would like to try 🙂
Cathy McMann says
I think your Poolside bag come out great. Do you know name/maker of the map fabric? My daughter lives in NYC and I’d like to make her something out of that.
Thanks Cathy! The fabric is from the Passport collection by 3 Sisters for Moda. It’s a little older now but you can still find it in smaller shops online.
This came out *amazing*!!! Love the fabric combo you used. I haven’t made this yet… but it’s on my list! Hopefully before beach season…
Regina Roza says
You did a great job on that bag! You’re right about having the PDF, I always get the PDF so I can make the adjustments and either enlarge or shrink I’ve seen the Poolside Tote at 85%, it makes a great handbag as well. Welcome to the bag making world!